Task Force Hearings Continue

The Front Country Trails Multi-Jurisdictional Task Force continued its hearings on June 6 with staff presentations on existing conditions of trails planning and policy, trail easement acquisition and use permits and regulation from County, City and U.S. Forest Service representatives. That was followed by presentations from three trail user groups, including the County Riding and Hiking Trails Advisory Council given by Kalon Kelly, the Sierra Club, and a small new ad-hoc group that bills itself as the Santa Barbara New Trails Committee, headed up by avid mountain biker Dorothy Littlejohn.

Several mountain bikers spoke during the public comment period, including one who owns an outdoor adventure company. His plea to keep local trails open to mountain bikers for tourism purposes sparked questions by Task Force chairman Steve Forsell to Jeff Benson of the Santa Barbara Ranger District, who gave the staff report on the Los Padres National Forest Management Plan.

Benson pointed out that severe budget cuts have impacted the ability of the Forest Service to adequately maintain trails. As to outfitters that bring mountain bikers to front country trails, Benson said, “We know they’re operating out there, but we don’t have the staff right now to go to the top of the trail heads [to catch them].”

Pointing out that the Forest Service fee is five percent of gross receipts, Forsell asked, “Doesn’t that seem something to put your emphasis on? Would it not be a good use of your time? What is the penalty if operators are caught without a permit?”

“Federal regulations make it illegal to operate without a permit. We can cite them. We know these folks are out there, and we do want to catch up with them,” answered Benson.

Sierra Club Presentation

Jim Childress, Trails Chairman of the Sierra Club’s Santa Barbara Group, gave the presentation on behalf of Sierra Club. By far the largest user group in the area, the Sierra Club has 6,000 members in the Los Padres Chapter, which covers Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. The Santa Barbara Group has 2,600 members and leads over 200 hikes per year on the local trails. That translates to over 2,000 hiker days per year.

Childress acknowledged that some mountain bikers publicly claim they are Sierra Club members, but that the Club’s position does not represent their views. He pointed out that the seven executive committee members of the Santa Barbara Group are openly elected in a democratic process, and have a mandate to uphold national Sierra Club policy.

“The Sierra Club recognizes that bicyclists can be legitimate users of many non-wilderness backcountry trails and supports reasonable off-road bicycling where it is suitable,” said Childress. “The national Sierra Club policy on off-road use of bicycles must include application of objective criteria,” he continued, “to assess whether or not environmental quality can be effectively maintained, and whether the safety and enjoyment of all users can be protected.”

The Sierra Club presentation included several videos of mountain bikers on local trails, speeding around blind curves and not yielding to hikers as trail user rules dictate. This was compared to video taken by a hiker proceeding up Tunnel Trail, illustrating the different perception a hiker faces from the possibility of an oncoming bike on a narrow trail with steep drop-offs.

The national Sierra Club policy recommends a ban on mountain biking where there is “danger to the safety of bicyclists or other users because of bicycle speed, steep grades, steep terrain, sharp curves, slippery or unstable trail surfaces, limited visibility, and significant displacement or annoyance of other non-motorized users.”

Given that all of these criteria are applicable to the local front country trails, it’s obvious why many mountain bikers are so upset with the Sierra Club and its elected representatives.

To watch one of the videos presented at the Task Force meeting showing a mountain biker on Cold Spring Trail, visit www.montecitojournal.net under “Trail Talk.” The next meeting of the Task Force is Wednesday, July 11 at 5:30 pm in City Council Chambers, 735 Anacapa Street. Public comment is welcome. SAMPLE VIDEO, CLICK HERE

Mark your calendar:

Saturday, June 23 – Sunday, June 24

Santa Barbara County Riding Club

Summer Horse Show

7:30 am – 5 pm

Earl Warren Showgrounds

Free admission and parking

Sunday, June 24

Los Padres Trail Riders

Potluck and General Meeting

Tucker’s Grove, Noon

Leave your horse at home but join up with equestrians for a potluck get-together. There are barbecue pits at Tucker’s Grove if you want to arrive early and get the grill going. Please bring a dish to share and your own place settings. Tucker’s Grove is located at the juncture of Turnpike Road and Cathedral Oaks Road in Goleta. For more information call Los Padres Trail Riders president Maggie Robles at 453-0115.

Saturday, June 30

Sierra Club Hike

Ennisbrook Trail

Easy, 2 miles round-trip

Enjoy a morning walk through this Montecito area with large trees near San Ysidro Creek. Children welcome. Either meet behind Bank of America on upper State Street at Hope Avenue at 9 am, or at trailhead on San Leandro Lane around 9:15 am. Bring water. For more information call Vicki at 563-4850.

Sunday, July 1

Sierra Club Hike

Romero-Saddleback Loop

Strenuous, 10 miles round-trip

A combination of seven trails above Montecito will take you from Romero Canyon to San Ysidro Canyon and back. Bring lunch and plenty of water. Meet behind Bank of America on upper State Street at Hope Avenue at 9 am. For more information call Diane Soini at 687-1929.

Wednesday, July 4

Los Padres Trail Riders

Santa Barbara Fourth of July Parade 1 pm

Decorate your horse in red, white, and blue and wear your Los Padres Trail Riders parade outfit. For more information call parade chair Barbara Wolf at 964-3458.